After much study, the Madison City Council late Tuesday overwhelmingly approved streamlined rules to protect the city’s five Madison historic districts when property owners want to make changes to buildings or developers propose new projects.
The council also approved a new recycling charge totaling $24.80 per household to cover the last six months of 2022 and a policy related to the charge; implementation and assessments for the first phase of a controversial reconstruction of Lake Mendota Drive that’s strongly opposed by many residents over concerns about process, impacts on neighborhood character and water quality; and the appointment of Erik Paulson to fill a vacancy in the council’s 3rd District on the Far East Side.
Until now, to change or demolish a building in a historic district, an owner must get approval from the city’s Landmarks Commission. But the city’s five historic districts – Mansion Hill, First Settlement, Third Lake Ridge, Marquette Bungalows and University Heights – were established at different times and each has widely different standards, some detailed and others vague.
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The council on Tuesday voted unanimously with two abstentions to approve recommendations by the the city’s special Landmarks Ordinance Review Committee, created in 2013, to largely merge the standards with clearer, simpler rules for all five districts.
The committee ultimately decided the approach worked best for increasing predictability for property owners, contractors, developers and the Landmarks Commission, city preservation planner Heather Bailey said.
“Our goal is to make sure things are clear for all out users,” she said.
The Madison Alliance for Historic Preservation has contended it’s better to have core standards for all districts but keep district-specific rules where needed. But Smart Growth Greater Madison, which represents developers, voiced support for the new rules, but pushed for additional changes. A motion to delay the approval lost by a 14-4 vote.
In 2014, the council decided the city should update its Historic Preservation Ordinance, and in 2015, the council adopted the first part of the process, changing how the city reviews work on designated landmarks, and introducing new processes like barring “demolition by neglect” in order to save its most endangered historic properties.
The current effort to review how historic districts are regulated comes after multiple neighborhood meetings – three in each local historic district – and many meetings by the Landmarks Ordinance Review Committee.
The council voted 13-4 to approve a policy and $24.48 per household cost for the “resource recovery special charge” that would apply to all curbside recycling customers, including most single-family homes and properties with eight or fewer residential units and some smaller commercial parcels. The $24.48 would cover July through December. The council established the special charge last month.
The charge, expected to raise $1.5 million this year, would not be imposed on properties that use private recycling services, including larger residential parcels, most commercial properties and all industrial properties. In 2023, over a fully year, the charge is estimated to generate $3 million. The charge is not based on volume so as not to punish those who recycle more of their waste, officials have said.
Those voting no — Alds. Syed Abbas, Sheri Carter, Gary Halverson and Charles Myadze — voiced concern about the city imposing more “regressive” chargers and fees on residents, especially those with low incomes.
But Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the city faces significant budget challenges and challenged council members to identify where they would make $1.5 million in cuts in the operating budget this year and $3 million next year.
The special charge “is going to balance the budget you collectively voted for,” the mayor said. “I don’t like this. None of us do. We’d prefer not to do special charges,” she said, adding that the State Legislature has constrained the city’s options to generate revenue.
Also Tuesday, the council:
Voted 12-7 to approve the plans, specifications, and property assessments for the first phase of the reconstruction of Lake Mendota Drive, which includes curb, gutter and sidewalks, from Baker Avenue to the city limits. No residents registered in support of the project and 53 against with many speakers asking to slow the process. The council approved the geometry of the full project last month. It will be done in phases in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
Unanimously appointed Paulson to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Ald. Lindsay Lemmer in the 3rd District. Paulson, a design engineer at Johnson Controls, emerged from a field of five candidates. He earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science from UW-Madison, served as the inaugural chair of the city’s Digital Technology Committee from 2013-15, and has extensive community experience. He’ll serve at least until a new member is elected in April 2023.
Approved council meeting formats that could begin a hybrid combination of in-person and online meetings as soon as July 12.
Throwback photos: Madison-area bars you’ll never drink at again, part 3
Schooner’s Bar & Grill
Stan Cutler’s Bar X
State Street Infirmary
The Dangle Lounge
Fox Den Tavern
Black Lemon A-Go-Go
Eddie’s Wonder Bar
Fauerbach Brewery Tavern
Hausmann Brewery Bar
Rose Bud Tavern
Bennett’s on the Park
The Back Door
Tony Frank’s Tavern
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